Why Disagreements Happen

7. Information processing methods. If people use different methods of information processing, they may end up disagreeing, even if the methods on which each person relies are reasonable enough. Brains do not perfectly update the strength of beliefs when they come up against new information. Faced with limited computational resources and the limitation that our brain has developed through natural selection, we can expect approximations as an imperfect update of credibility. If two brains both have good but imperfect enough methods to update beliefs on the basis of evidence, they may end up disagreeing, even if they are about as reliable as each other. If we explicitly generate information about the processing of information, there may be differences of opinion. For example, if we want to estimate the likelihood that a friend will cancel us for dinner, it is not clear that we have to take into account our knowledge of the number of times friends usually cancel us out in relation to our knowledge of the number of times that particular friend has canceled us. We have more data on all our friends, which makes this estimate more reliable, but the data on this particular friend is more relevant for each case. Ideally, all known information should be combined in one way or another, but one can reasonably disagree on how best to do so. Marguerite`s office was 30 blocks north of Manhattan. My boss suggested I stop on my way with the florist. For a while, I wondered if it was better to be fired than to face daisy and what I had done, but he was right.

And when I arrived in Marguerite`s office with an unreasonably large bouquet of flowers, she laughed. For her credit, she told me that it was happening, and that she preferred that the next time I disagreed with her, I would tell her so that we could talk about it. It was generous and helpful advice. So if you can learn to distinguish between real conflicts and simple disagreements, you automatically remove a lot of false conflicts from your life. This is because it is much easier to stop a conflict before it starts only to try to stop one as soon as it has already been set in motion.